Erdogan wants to revive cannabis production, and Turkish Islamists love it
ISTANBUL, Turkey – When municipal officials from all over Turkey arrived at the presidential complex on Wednesday to attend a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they didn’t expect him to speak about cannabis.
They were at the symposium to discuss something quite different: the role of local administrations in the new presidential system.
We destroyed cannabis in this country because of some enemies who were disguised as friends
But Erdogan, who is known to change the content of his addresses spontaneously upon delivery, despite having a large group of speechwriters, took a different route.
To the congregated officials’ surprise, he began railing against plastic bags and the need to protect the environment. His solution? Cannabis.
“I remember my mother used to knit shopping bags that we could use when shopping. You don’t throw them away immediately, and go out shopping with them again. It is earth friendly, even if you wanted to dispose of it,” he said.
“These are made of cannabis.”
The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, Erdogan revealed, was set to revive the cannabis cultivation industry, with a view to encourage the production of a raft of local products using new incentives.
“We destroyed cannabis in this country because of some enemies who were disguised as friends,” Erdogan said.
Some, like journalist and writer Yunus Eksi, an expert at Eurasia Strategic Researches Center (ASAM) who spoke to Turkish media last week, believes US policies forced Turkey into curbing cannabis farming.
“The US government, by leveraging its financial power, pressured other countries into removing cannabis-based medications from their national codex,” he told Russia’s Sputnik agency.
“After the US banned 37 cannabis-based medications, European countries followed its lead. Turkey also excluded cannabis products from its medical system from 1940 onwards.”
Erdogan’s own rhetoric for the reason suggests that his government also agrees with this theory.
The Turkish opposition, however, says that the policies of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) are some of the fundamental reasons behind low production.
Deputy chairman the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Orhan Saribal, told Russia’s Sputnik agency that the cannabis farming industry was destroyed by the government with faulty agricultural regulations.
“It was mostly destroyed before this government due to lack of incentives and increasing costs. But it totally ceased to exist thanks to this ruling party,” he said.
Since that announcement, developments have moved fast.
On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Berat Pakdemirli unveiled the project. He said that government has already permitted cannabis production in 19 provinces, and there were plans to increase the number of farms depending on the demand.
“Samsun Black Sea Agricultural Institute and Ondokuz Mayis University are conducting a research project on cannabis. We will approve new locations that will produce organic cannabis,” he said.
Governor of Kirklareli Osman Bilgin, followed suit later that day.
“There are 2.5 million cannabis plants naturally grown in our city. We won’t burn them anymore. We will contribute the economy with them,” he said, adding that the crop could be used to produce ship ropes.
Bilgin’s statements were quickly mocked on Twitter because of his claim that the cannabis plants weren’t planted by farmers but grew naturally. One Twitter user joked that it was because of these plants there was a very low crime rate in Kirklareli.
On Sunday, daily Dirilis Postasi published a full front-page spread on the topic, with the headline “Cannabis production is a national matter.” The story included a very large graph with which the newspaper laid out the perceived benefits of cannabis, from the energy sector to the textile industry.
Diriliş Postası, kenevir üretimi için 2 yıldır canla başla mücadele veriyor.
Kenevir üretimi memleket meselesi https://t.co/RW6jWmJ8fW pic.twitter.com/L9wtzrTrMr
The article also accused “Western imperialists” of drying out Turkish soil “anywhere they set foot” in order to prevent agricultural work in the country.
Abdurrahman Dilipak, one of the most prominent Islamist writers who defends the legalisation of cannabis production and medical use, penned a column in the Yeni Akit newspaper the same day as Dirilis Postasi’s spread came out.
Dilipak argued that cannabis is only psychologically addictive and harmless compared to heroin and other drugs, so should not be treated as such.
“[The] Turkish Social Security Administration [SGK] should produce medication based on cannabis and distribute without a charge under the supervision of medical doctors,” he said, adding that in this way sale of cannabis could be taken from the hands of organised crime that profits from it.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
President hopes reviving the industry will signal high times ahead for Turkey's economy and environment
Cannabis in Turkey – Laws, Use, and Other Information
Turkey takes a tough stance on cannabis possession and supply. It’s illegal to use or sell it, and if you’re caught, a prison sentence may be given. However, recent government changes mean that industrial hemp can now be legally grown again, which may provide Turkey’s economy with a serious financial boost.
- CBD Products
- Recreational cannabis
- Medicinal cannabis
Cannabis laws in Turkey
Can you possess and use cannabis in Turkey?
Turkish law has relatively severe penalties for those caught with cannabis in their possession. The Turkish Penal Code states that prison sentences will be given to those who possess or purchase cannabis. This is currently fixed at two to five years.
Offenders have the option to have treatment instead of a prison sentence. If they request treatment from a doctor before being caught, the doctor is not legally obliged to report them to the police. The offender also has the choice to choose probation as an alternative to prison (up to three years). However, repeat offenders cannot select probation a second time.
If cannabis users refuse treatment or fail to keep to their probation requirements, the Turkish courts can then issue a prison sentence.
Can you sell cannabis in Turkey?
Turkey’s location presents a unique situation in terms of cannabis supply. Situated next to drug-producing nations in the Middle-East, it acts as a gateway for cannabis dealers to distribute illegally in Europe. There is considerable pressure on the Turkish government to control this trafficking, and as such, the penalties are severe.
Import and export of cannabis can result in a prison sentence of 20 to 30 years. Selling or supplying it within Turkey means a sentence of 10 years or more. This increases to 15 years or over if the cannabis is sold to a minor. Synthetic cannabinoids result in a further increased sentence (of 50%). Likewise, if the supplier has a legally regulated job (e.g. doctor, pharmacist) the sentence is also raised.
Can you grow cannabis in Turkey?
In 2016, the Turkish government approved cannabis production in 19 provinces across the country. All cannabis farms in these areas are government controlled, and authorised farmers must get rid of all parts of the plant after harvesting, to ensure it isn’t sold on as a psychoactive drug.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in 2019 that the country would also start to grow industrial hemp in the future. He commented: “I am calling out to my nation; let’s start the process to cultivate industrial hemp. We will see that industrial hemp has many different benefits in many different areas.”
It is illegal to grow cannabis at home, even if it is just for personal use.
Is CBD legal in Turkey?
Many people are confused as to whether CBD oil is legal in Turkey. The official line seems to be that it is legal, but only if the THC levels of the oil are 0.2% or less.
Certain medical products containing CBD oil are available at pharmacies as well, and some doctors are willing to prescribe them.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Turkey?
Although it is legal to send cannabis seeds to most countries in Europe, Turkish law does not permit it. Cannabis seeds cannot be sold in Turkey, and neither can they be mailed into the country via the post.
Medicinal cannabis in Turkey
Medical use of cannabis is legal in Turkey, providing the patient has a prescription from a registered health professional. Patients cannot purchase cannabis buds, regardless of whether they have a prescription or not.
In February 2017, the Turkish Ministry of Health added Sativex to its ‘importable medicines’ list – which enables pharmacies to order the product from abroad. CBD oils are also widely available.
In 2016, the government legalised the production of cannabis for medical purposes in 19 provinces across the country. These included Amasya, Izmir, Malatya and Antalya, among others. The plantations will be rigorously monitored by the government. Checks will be carried out each month before the harvest season, and all leftover parts of the plant after harvesting must be disposed of carefully.
How can you get prescribed medical cannabis?
To be prescribed cannabis for medical purposes, you must be assessed by a Turkish doctor who is authorised to issue ‘red’ prescriptions. This type of prescription is allocated to medications that contain narcotics.
Once a prescription is given, the patient may obtain cannabis-based medicines such as Sativex or CBD oils. Currently, these products are imported. However, in 2016, several cannabis production facilities were established across the country, which means that Turkey should be producing its own medicine in the future.
Usually, medical cannabis is only prescribed for patients who have tried other forms of treatment and found them to be ineffective.
Industrial hemp in Turkey
Turkey has an excellent climate for hemp cultivation. Since the 1970s, all production of hemp has been illegal, but in 2016, the government permitted its growth in 19 provinces, for medical and scientific purposes.
President Erdogan made a speech in 2019, highlighting his plans to make widespread industrial hemp production legal again. At present, the country heavily relies on imported hemp products for use in paper manufacturing, textiles, the automotive industry and more. By reintroducing the hemp industry in Turkey, it could provide a beneficial boost to the economy.
Turkey’s political parties and cannabis
Up until recently, most Turkey’s political parties adopted an anti-cannabis stance. However, President Erdogan’s recent change of heart regarding industrial hemp production reflects a shift in public opinion.
His recent comments about “enemies of Turkey who pretend to be friends” is thought to be aimed at the US, who encouraged Turkey to make cannabis production illegal. In a bid to change the Turkish people’s attitudes to cannabis, the government television channel (TRT) started airing infomercials about the benefits of hemp production.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Turkey (or are a resident of the country), it is useful to know the following:
- 96% of cannabis users receiving treatment are male. The average age at which users start consuming cannabis is 18.
- Illegal cannabis is fairly potent in Turkey. Herbal cannabis THC levels can be as high as 27.34% and resin (hash) can be as high as 25.21%.
- Herbal cannabis is the most seized drug in Turkey, followed by resin.
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Evidence suggests that cannabis was cultivated in Turkey as long ago as 1,000 BC. Throughout the country’s history, hemp was widely grown and valued for its many uses. Use of ‘hashish’ was also culturally accepted for many centuries. Indeed, the Sufi form of Islam used cannabis in their ceremonies, and coffee houses across the country permitted use of it on their premises.
This all changed in the 1900s. In 1925, Turkey (along with Egypt) called for the inclusion of cannabis in the Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control. Cultivation of industrial hemp likewise dwindled, thanks largely to the growing popularity of synthetic fibres. In 1961, Turkey had 35,000 acres devoted to cultivating cannabis. In 2017, this had shrunk to just 11.3 acres.
Throughout the latter half of the 1900s, cannabis was regarded as a threat to public health. However, recent developments suggest a shift in opinion. The introduction of medical cannabis recognises the plant’s abilities to ease symptoms associated with a variety of health conditions. Erdogan’s decision to start growing industrial hemp again was also welcomed by politicians and the Turkish people alike.
Trade routes to Europe
Due to its geographical location, Turkey has historically had to be proactive in controlling drugs trafficking. Acting as a ‘gateway’ between the Middle-East and Europe, it’s a popular route for illegal drugs to be smuggled into the continent.
For this reason, public opinion of cannabis has been largely negative in the past. Figures show that young people in Turkey use it far less than their fellow European counterparts. Cannabis is becoming more popular in urban areas though, even though it is illegal.
Cannabis and innovation in Turkey
Industrial hemp production in Turkey is an appealing prospect for businesses. The plant offers the opportunity for innovation – a fact that some companies are already capitalising on.
Turkish venture firm TechnoArge has developed an airport X-ray scanner that uses a cannabis-based composite. This blocks radiation emissions and improves the safety of the surrounding environment. The firm are also developing a bullet-proof vest, again using the composite. This makes the vest far lighter and more durable than the vests commonly used at present.
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Cannabis and the economy
In 2019, the head of the Cannabis Institute of the Centre for Eurasian Strategic Studies predicted that Turkey could earn as much as $100bn by 2030, just from controlled cannabis production.
They also highlighted the multiple uses of the plant; for example in textile production, paper manufacture, biodiesel, plastic production, and more.
Turkey has succeeded in transforming an illegal industry into a viable market opportunity before. Poppy production became legal in Turkey in the 1970s, and poppy farms began opening soon after. The opioids contained in poppies have become vital to pharmaceutical companies across the world, demand remains high, and this has helped Turkey’s economy.
Will cannabis be legalised in the future?
At present, there is no indication that the Turkish government plan to decriminalise the recreational use of cannabis. Penalties for being caught in possession of cannabis, even for personal use, are relatively severe.
However, President Erdogan’s decision to legalise industrial hemp production marks a distinct shift. By recognising the economic value of cannabis, this may bring about a change in public perception.
14 thoughts on “Cannabis in Turkey – Laws, Use, and Other Information”
Hello Dear Friends and Smokers,
First off all, I was born and raised in Istanbul. And I studied university in Hatay province which is a border city near Syria. In Hatay, you are able to find any quality of weed and it depends on whom you know. Its not legal,yet you can find it everywhere on the streets. There are packages that arranged for selling like at least for 20 Liras but this price only salable in small cities. Now, in 2017 you can get 2 to 4 grams of weed for 50 liras in Istanbul, it wasnt like that years ago. (Depends on the quality and the relation with your dealer)And its a real deal. Now they take care of their business and dont fuck around. If you wanna buy it then you should ask barmen and youngsters. But be careful in order to not get cheated. Advice: smoke it on the roof of a house where you can see the silhouette of the city in the night with a cold beer like Carlsberg. Have fun!
thanks for your kind information , what if i just roll two single cigarettes between one pack ? how do they find out weed at the air port ?
It’s illegal to use cannabis in Turkey, unless it’s been prescribed by a medical professional. However, hemp is now being grown again – here’s more info.